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Fourteen Rescued from Bonded Labour at Construction Site

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Fourteen Rescued from Bonded Labour at Construction Site

"I am FREE today" one survivor cried. The taste of joy after 4 years of bonded labour is unimaginable. These ten adults and children have finally been granted official release statements, and will be supported through IJM and partners aftercare services, on their long journey to restoration.

BANGALORE, INDIA – On Friday, IJM and our casework partner Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) supported local authorities in rescuing 14 people — including four children — from bonded labour at a construction site where they had been enslaved for the last four years.

Discrimination faced by tribal groups can lead to trafficking.

The families had been trafficked to Karnataka from one of India’s tribal communities in the state of Telangana. Tribal groups have historically faced a lot of discrimination and abuse, leaving many vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation and slavery.

In this case, the families were given advance payments to work for a labour contractor, who manipulated these debts to keep them working at various sites over the years. Recently, they were installing drainage systems at a large construction site.

The ten adults were forced to work continuously, without proper food or shelter. They were forbidden from leaving, even for family weddings or funerals. The owner “paid” 100 rupees per family every two weeks (about $1.30) for their basic needs. If the families ever asked to leave, the owner demanded they repay the entire payment advance debt—which he had been illegally increasing every year.

FSD staff had been investigating the case and the abuses these families were suffering, but it took several weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown for authorities to agree it was safe to conduct a rescue operation.

Finally rescued after 4 years of bonded labour.

On June 12, IJM and FSD joined a government-led rescue team of police, labour officials and local government to enter the worksite, interview the labourers, and bring them to safety. They were able to do a sensitive, detailed interview back at the government office, which has led to formal police reports being filed against the owner under India’s laws against bonded labour and human trafficking.

Officials provided the ten adults with Release Certificates, which formally declare them as free and break their false debts to the owner. The survivors also got warm meals, temporary housing and medical care, including protective gear for COVID-19.

"I am free today!"

The survivors expressed deep thanks for finally being released from these conditions. One man shared joyfully, “I am free today! I can go home and find a better job there. I will be able to ensure my children are educated and feed my family well. I want to thank the government and all the ‘Sirs’ [referring to the officials, FSD and IJM].”

Now free, the families returned safely to their community in Telangana on June 13. IJM and FSD will help connect them to local aftercare programs to support their restoration, and will also support government officials in the legal case against the owner who enslaved them.

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